In late March of 2009, Assemblyman Eric Munoz lay in a hospital that could not treat his life-threatening heart condition.

He was waiting for a specially equipped ambulance that could keep him alive as he was transported to a second hospital. The Assemblyman waited two hours for one of the New Jersey's 48 specialty care transportation units (SCTU). Eric died shortly after reaching the second hospital.

His wife, Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz is now sponsoring a bill that would ensure the immediate dispatch and timely transport of critically ill patients between health care facilities.

"We don't know that he could have survived, but he certainly had a better chance if he had been picked up two hours earlier," says the Assemblywoman who is also a nurse. "We can't bring my husband back, but this could help other people in the State of New Jersey."

SCTUs transport critically ill and compromised patients between health care facilities when patient needs exceed a level of care currently available to them. SCTUs, which are licensed by the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), are equipped with advanced life support equipment, including medications, cardiac monitoring devices and ventilators, and are staffed with highly skilled health care professionals.

Assemblywoman Muñoz' measure is designed to ensure immediate dispatch, and timely patient pick-up from the sending hospital, and transport to the receiving hospital by an SCTU used for patient inter-facility transfers and establish contingency SCTU transport protocols in the event that a hospital's SCTU is not immediately available for dispatch. A hospital that fails to comply would be penalized.

The Assemblywoman says, "Situations often arise when a critically ill patient at a hospital needs to be moved to a specialty care facility which is better equipped to handle the patients' condition. Such patients require specialized medical intervention or monitoring that is beyond the capabilities of a basic life support ambulance and its crew. It is literally a matter of life and death. In such situations it's imperative that an SCTU be dispatched immediately to ensure the timely and safe transport of the patient."